Product Type: Smart cars
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Be smart - get a smart car
Member Name: dbarcl10
Date: 25/08/08, updated on 02/09/08 (1973 review reads)
Advantages: Brings the thrill back to driving, cheap to run, reliable, looks great
Disadvantages: Lack of storage space
I got my smart Roadster Brabus three years ago, shortly before they ceased production in November 2005. Despite the car selling well in Britain, it wasn't selling in the rest of Europe, and so the car was pulled from production. Such a shame as the smart Roadster is a truly wonderful car, a joy to drive.
smart (with a small 's', not a spelling mistake) is an acronym for Swatch Mercedes ART. The idea for smart first came from Swatch (yes the watch people) who wanted to design an eco-friendly car using innovative features and be affordable to young people. Many other car manufacturers considered the plans before a joint venture between Swatch and Daimler-Benz was agreed in 1994.
The joint venture experienced heavy losses and disputes over the car as Mercedes-Benz were unable to design the type of engine that was envisaged by Swatch. This eventually led to Swatch withdrawing from the joint venture. Losses at smart continued (reported to be up to 4 billion euros between 2003 and 2006) until smart was liquidated in 2006 and its operations were absorbed into Mercedes-Benz.
Brabus is a German company that specialise in getting the maximum engine performance by increasing the horsepower and torque of the engine. Brabus also offers other upgrades to cars, such as changing the exhaust system, bodykits, alloys etc.
smart and Brabus work together on a range of cars to make them even more powerful.
The Roadster was introduced to the UK in 2003, based on the original smart forwo car. The car was lengthened and had a Mercedes-Benz 698cc turbocharged engine, capable of delivering 81bhp.
The smart Roadster was available in two styles, the normal Roadster having an electric softtop with the coupe version having a removable hard roof.
As with other smart cars the Roadster is mainly made from plastic panels with a steel safety cell frame which protects the car and occupants from serious damage in the event of a crash.
smart Roadster Brabus
The Brabus version has the same 698cc engine but delivers 101bhp, compared to about 74bhp for a normal smart Roadster. Add to this the lowered body, the 17" Brabus alloys, double exhaust, heated leather seats and Brabus accessories throughout the car, and you have a great looking, powerful car.
The ignition is beside the gear stick rather than beside the steering wheel. On the version that we had, the engine could be started be either turning the key or by pressing the start button on the gear stick, which fired the engine into life with a roar.
The car was manual, with the option to press a button and go into automatic mode which is better suited for urban driving. The automatic mode was very easy and enjoyable although at times the gear changes were a little slow. I found the best way to combat this was to slightly ease off the accelerator when the gear change was happening, and this seemed to help.
smart cars come without a clutch, so driving in manual will be like no other manual car. To change gear, either give the gear stick a brief push forward and the gear will change upwards. Pull it back to go down a gear. There is no need to take you're foot of the accelerator when changing gear. The car will automatically go down gears even when in manual, or you can do it yourself if you need more power, overtaking for example.
The smart Brabus also comes with F1 style paddles on the steering wheel which allow the gears to be changed up or downwards.
Our Roadster Brabus had an electric soft top which folded down into a space behind the seats in a mere 8 seconds and can be used whilst driving. To make the car look even better, the roof bars can be removed and stored in the luggage compartment in the front of the car.
Now, in case you didn't know, smart cars have rear mounted engines, meaning, in the Roadster, that the front bonnet area can be used for carrying your shopping, luggage etc. Also, in the back above the boot is a small luggage area. Although the total luggage space is small, I never found a problem getting weekly shopping or bigger items in. For a small car it had a surprisingly large storage capacity.
The car comes with a factory fitted immobiliser, which locks the gear stick in place until the key is inserted. This means that even if someone does hotwire the car, they can't put the gear stick into drive mode, and can't therefore steal the car.
Due to the lightness of the car, the Roadster Brabus is very efficient. I travelled from Glasgow to Manchester and back on just over a tank of petrol, which I think was about 25 - 30 litres.
Also the efficient engine means that emissions are low, resulting in cheap road tax, although the Brabus version has slightly higher emissions and falls into a slightly higher road tax category.
I sold this great car just over a year ago, and in that short time I've had two cars, a VW Beetle and a Fiat Bravo. Neither of these cars had the power, the looks or the excitement of the smart Roadster Brabus. Tomorrow I get my new smart fortwo Brabus - I can't wait!
Summary: A car for the attention seeking